Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Lessons Learned from Frank Gehry on Masterclass

Lessons Learned from Frank Gehry on Masterclass

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry. Photo by Matt McK

After several months of waiting for Frank Gehry’s Masterclass to be fully released, I finally had the opportunity to go through all of the courses and learn from his experiences. Although his class is an overview of the various skills one needs as an architect, I found it to be very informing for both non-architects and architects at any point in their career. Among many others, here are 3 things that I gained from Gehry’s Masterclass.

Validating personal beliefs

Architects tend to be creative people who have strong perspectives and ideas on the correct way to detail a building, put together a safe contract, negotiate for the best fees, and to come up with a design idea that’s sure to amaze their clients. However, many architects at all levels of their career might have these strong perspectives, but lack the confidence to see them through. Thus, it’s important to read books or listen to very experienced people explain their ideas so that one can compare it to their own and confirm that it’s aligned with their own.

This idea of validation is very important for anyone in a design profession such as architecture because it provides the guidance and motivation for a creative individual to continue moving in a direction that they consider being correct.

Once I began watching Gehry talk about architecture in his videos, I realized that his courses are fantastic at validating my personal beliefs in architecture. In fact, in episode 2, he talks about the importance of developing your own signature and explained its relationship to developing your own architectural style. In episode 7, Gehry discusses the obstacles that he encountered on some of his prominent projects and explains his approach to overcoming them.

Most importantly, Gehry explains the importance of learning from previous projects and applying the lessons learned to future projects. In essence, this helped me validate the idea that architecture will always be a learning experience and there will be some failures along the way. Learn to embrace what you might consider to be a failure and come up with a way to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Strengthening creative skills

Throughout my career, I’ve found that many architects struggle to develop a creative design through abstract and critical thinking. In many cases, it’s difficult for architects to come up with a design based on arbitrary design ideas. However, when an architect is knowledgeable of a specific niche such as sculpture, art, airplane designs, etc., they’re able to convey their abstract design ideas in such a way that people who are unfamiliar with the concept can grasp the essence of the design.

If you look at prominent architects of the 21st century such as Zaha Hadid, Thom Mayne, Norman Foster, Bjarke Ingels, and Frank Gehry among many others, you’ll see that their architectural style is based on something that they’re very passionate about. In Gehry’s Masterclass, he discusses the idea of movement through folds in a Gian Lorenzo Bernini Saint Teresa sculpture and explains how movement is created through the folds of the woman’s dress.

Then, Gehry explains how the dramatic folds in the sculpture were translated into his architecture to express movement. This is evident in many of his prominent architecture projects such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in California. However, before these projects were commissioned, Gehry talks about one of the initial projects in his career where he first attempted to express movement, succeeded, and was commissioned to design the Guggenheim in Bilbao. If you want to find out which project is was, be sure to sign up for Gehry’s Masterclass!

After watching several episodes where Gehry talked about the different areas of architectural design and working with clients, I found more confidence in myself to find a strong design idea and clearly express it to my clients. This means that I need to learn more about various subjects so that I can develop stronger design ideas and speak confidently about the architecture without being arbitrary. It’s difficult to defend a design idea when your only answer is, “Well, I did that because I wanted to…”, and it’s better to have a design idea where you can say, “The design of your building is inspired by the…”

The importance of teamwork

Among many other great aspects of Gehry’s Masterclass, his episodes on business, working with a team, generating ideas, and throughout other episodes express his gratitude to his team and he stresses the importance of creating an environment that engages everyone at his firm. It’s important to be able to come up with a great design for your client, but it’s even more important to have the team that can help you make it a reality.

Throughout Gehry’s courses, he makes reference back to departments of his architecture firm such as the materials and prototyping team and individuals from all levels who helped him make projects such as 8 Spruce Street in New York City a reality.

Most importantly, Gehry discusses the importance of having respect for everyone. He briefly stated that if he were designing a new project with a team of architects at his firm and there were young architects that admired him, he would joke throughout the meeting so that they would feel comfortable to speak up. In fact, he does his best to get everyone to be comfortable and to share their opinions on any project at the firm. Then, Gehry goes on to explaining why this is the most important part to having a successful and dynamic team of architects, but you’ll have to sign up for his Masterclass for more!

Conclusion

When I signed up for Gehry’s Masterclass, I didn’t know what to expect from his course, but I knew that it would motivate me to continue learning and aspiring for more as an architect. Through his course, I was able to validate my belief that having a strong office culture and diverse team along with a clear idea and confidence can lead to fantastic projects. Most importantly, Gehry’s Masterclass brings his audience into his life as an architect and through his courses, you get to witness a great architect encountering the same kinds of issues that any other architect does on their projects. Ultimately, we’re all humans that can achieve the similar and extraordinary results.

If you’re interested in checking out Gehry’s Masterclass, you can click here and sign up today! If you’re a foodie like me, you might also want to check out Gordon Ramsay’s Masterclass. Ramsay's scrambled egg recipe is simple and delicious!

P.S: Full disclosure, if you choose to sign up for Gehry or Ramsay’s Masterclass by using my link, I will earn a small commission as an affiliate to their company at no extra cost to you. I would never recommend any products that I’ve never used and I would be grateful for your support. However, if you would rather sign up without using my link, feel free to go directly to the Masterclass website by searching for it on Google.

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